Monday, September 26, 2011

Rapids Riders Vermillion River Clean Up 2011

How much love can a little river generate?  Some places are special and have a place in our hearts.  The Vermillion River in Hasting MN is one of those special places.  An urban playboat run tucked into a canyon surrounded by what could be a spectacular park but has deteriorated into a brush overgrown urban natural area with bike paths through it.  Along with the grown up brush, the fringe people make this area their element.  Kids with nothing to do but trouble.  Drug addicts and drunks. Homeless and  the lost all find their way to the Verm. Nothing is ever so simple and with all the beauty and pleasure the river gives us boaters we accept it with the bad and coexist. Love is always complicated that way. Unconditional.

  45 people showed up today to show that unconditional love for this little river.  Determined to step into the wilds of this lawless area and cheerfully clean up the debris. A very daunting endeavor!  Paddlers arrived early this year and set out in groups and alone.  "We'll take the far side." "We'll head down to RR pool"  "I'm headed to the falls"  Impromptu plans at the pavilion resulting in full coverage of the park.  Some people went into the river.  Some took the trails. Some in the park above.  For three hours paddlers from around Minnesota worked very hard to remove all kinds of junk.

  The informal contest is who can find the most bikes!  We usually get 20 to 30 bikes out of the river each year!!  We were close to that number this year.  Oddly enough a whole bike rack with bikes still attached was found in the river and pulled up the cliff by volunteers and removed!!  Sadly, one full suspension mountain bike was found.  Older model and not salvageable.

  The other informal contest is who can find the most unusual item.  This year there were several items but I think the heavy weight punching bag took the crown here.

  Whiskey is the drink of choice in the back bushes. The amount of bottles found is staggering!  Another shocking discovery was a pile of over 200 used hypodermic needles. This is so tragic in  many ways.
   These needles were NOT picked up by our volunteers as they are a bio-hazard.  They were reported to the authorities and will be cleaned up and dealt with by professionals. 
  The pile of debris removed grows big!  The volunteers all return to the pavilion for a pizza lunch provided by Friends of the Mississippi Trevor Russell, from MFR, gave a very interesting talk on the water quality of the Vermillion River.  It is the only urban trophy trout stream in America!  Amazing!  He went on to explain the coming project in place to restore clean water to the Mississippi and it's watershed.  Friends of the Mississippi are an incredible organization that keeps projects going year round to improve the wetlands of the water shed.  This has a direct result in improving not only the river habitat but also our quality of paddling.  Several years ago there was massive building of pre-planned neighborhoods in the suburbs up stream. The most dangerous threat to a natural trout stream is the urban runoff.  Rain that is shed from streets directly to the river not only carries pollution but is warmed by blacktop raising the river temp to uninhabitable for trout. Water that is not slowed also causes major erosion to the river banks.  FMR has many projects to plant rain gardens and natural habitat to slow run off which cools the river and naturally filters pollutants.   And of course slower runoff means the river holds water levels longer.  The housing projects have all  incorporated rain gardens in their design to protect the Vermillion. Thank you FRM!

  Then we had the swag drawing!  It was so exciting!  This year Jackson Kayak donated a Star playboat to give away!  Brian Guimond won the boat!  Brian already having a Jackson playboat turned around and immediately sold it to James Iliff, who was stoked to be able to get it!  Midwest Mountaineering as always was a great supporter!  WRSI for the second year donated a beautiful helmet for our swag table!   Seals Sprayskirts joined us this year donating a great mesh gear bag!  Immersion Research was new this year on the swag table donating several great items to wear and Werner sent us a goodie package also.  3M has been with us for about 5 years donating gift bags of products. KIND Healthy Snacks provided the fuel with a huge box of delicious bars. Gluten free and heathy...not to mention tasty!!   Thank you to all our sponsors!  You Rock!
   For a few hours given up on a Saturday morning by 45 determined hard working paddlers the Vermillion River is a better place to be.  Thanks to all who came and worked hard!  Let the fall rains begin!  Photos by Bryan Zlimen, Trevor Russell and Nora Whitmore.  More photos from the day can be found here.

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